Prachanda’s bedside story under public glare

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : After his exploits as the chief of an armed party that fought a 10-year war against the state and his new success in winning elections and becoming the head of government, now Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s bedside story has come under public glare.

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The son of a poor farmer who spent 25 years underground, the 54-year-old hit the headlines soon after his election as prime minister over the new Chinese connexion that has been detected at the heart of the prime ministerial mansion, by his very bedside.

Prachanda, who made the politicians of southern neighbour India unhappy by choosing to dispense with tradition and choose China as his first destination abroad after assuming office, has now a second close link with northern neighbour Beijing — his new bed.

The Prime Minister’s Office has bought an opulent king-sized bed, made in China, for the new premier.

While Prachanda’s ailing predecessor Girija Prasad Koirala’s inseparable bedside companion was an oxygen cylinder to ease breathing difficulties, the Maoist PM’s bed comes with a luxurious headrest and side tables.

Furniture Land, Nepal’s premier furniture seller, said the prime minister’s bed had cost over NRS 110,000.

In Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, a double-sized bed and mattress can be bought for NRS 6,000.

The prime ministerial bed far outshines deposed king Gyanendra’s modest double bed at his current Nagarjun mansion and the other ordinary furniture there.

The PMO’s new purchase comes at a time Prachanda and his new allies, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum agreed on a common minimum programme that includes austerity measures.

Soon after he came overground following the ouster of King Gyanendra’s government in 2006, Prachanda has also faced criticism for his designer sunglasses, branded watch and pen and four-wheel-drive car.

The new bed comes under criticism at a time southern Nepal has been ravaged by a flood that left over 75,000 people homeless and destroyed crops worth millions.

People have been forced to sleep on the wet ground wrapped only in a blanket.

A second crisis has been raging in major towns as well, including capital city Kathmandu.

Nepal is stuck in a major gas crisis with the state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation unable to pay its dues to the sole Indian fuel exporter, the Indian Oil Corporation.

The China card is rapidly gaining ascendancy in Nepal, that swore to have a balanced relationship based on the Panchsheel principles of peace and coexistence with India and China.

Even the furniture, including sofa sets, bought for republic Nepal’s first president Ram Baran Yadav has been imported from China.